Dear Matthew Alice: What does the law say regarding nonalcoholic beer and wine? Is it legal to drink it while driving? Is a license required to sell it? Can it be purchased and consumed by minors? — Daid, San Diego
Consider the scenario. Sixteen-year-old David sends his 5-year-old niece into a tire store (or a pet shop or a boutique), where she buys a six-pack of O’Doul’s. He pops the top on one, jumps into dad’s 4x4, and tears up and down Front Street for a while, finally screeching to a halt in front of 1350, local offices of the California Alcoholic Beverage Control Department. He proceeds to polish off the beer (alcohol content less than 0.5 percent), a bottle of Comtrex (20 percent), six bourbon ball candies (maybe 5 percent), and a well-soaked rum cake (maybe 10 percent). Dave has broken no laws. The sale of nonalcoholic beer and wine is not regulated. But Comtrex, Nyquil, and most of the other “nighttime” liquid cold remedies and some liquid analgesics are loaded with alcohol (7 to 25 percent) and likewise unregulated. If your stomach can tolerate it, you get the buzz and clear sinuses to boot. And according to recent news reports, the trendiest substance-abuse fad for kids is homemade tequila-laced Jell-O, which you can pack in your Charlie Brown lunchbox and take to school.